To build a brighter, healthier, and more equitable future for all US citizens, there is an indisputable need to decriminalize psychedelic medicines.
Psychedelic medicines have experienced revitalized public interest in recent years, resulting in a growth of regulatory and research attention as well. The topic of decriminalization is chief among the discussions surrounding psychedelics.
My team and I at Lucy Scientific have looked into the data and understand there to be numerous benefits to decriminalizing psychedelics, chief among them being public health and wellness. In countries such as Portugal that have decriminalized drugs, the data show that there is a decrease in drug-related adverse outcomes and no reported increase in drug use.1 This is a significant benefit for overall public health and wellness.
In 2019, more than 2% of the world’s population was affected by a substance use disorder (SUD).2 The prevalence of SUD poses significant problems to public health, but also can have an economic impact through the loss of life from overdoses and the loss of productivity among working professionals struggling with SUD. Further, SUD is challenging to treat, but psychedelics may offer hope.
Psychedelics show a promising pathway for the treatment of SUD. Though more research is needed, both lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin (a psychedelic present in “magic mushrooms”) have been shown to be effective when used as aids in the treatment of SUD.3-4
Decriminalizing LSD and psilocybin, as well as other psychedelic substances, would allow for further research into the potential medical applications of these compounds. Researchers will have increased access and will be able to gain additional knowledge about the medical applications of these incredible compounds. Over time, psychedelic therapies will become more accessible to a broader group of patients, allowing for more treatment options and better outcomes for individuals suffering from SUD.
Legislation alone does not stop the use of drugs. Abstinence has been the method of controlling drug use by legal means for decades; however, this has been ineffective in curtailing drug use or limiting the lives lost from overdoses. Instead, a harm-reduction approach is critical to ensure fewer adverse outcomes when people choose to consume drugs. Decriminalization is a powerful tool in harm-reduction strategies that can minimize or potentially even eliminate the lives lost due to drug-related adverse outcomes.
Harm reduction strategies, such as needle exchanges, safe drug access, and monitored injection sites, have decreased adverse outcomes related to drug use.5 By providing access to safe, unadulterated drugs in a legal, controlled context, patients are able to receive these drugs in a safe context and ask questions of knowledgeable health care professionals to ensure they remain safe. These strategies have been shown to save lives and are only possible if those drugs are decriminalized.
Decriminalizing drugs such as psychedelics allow governmental bodies to funnel more money and resources into other public health matters outside of penalizing drug users for nonviolent crimes. The initial step of decriminalization reduces police and incarceration spending and provides cities and countries with more financial support to develop tools and resources that can keep citizens safer and healthier.
Decriminalizing psychedelics and other drugs can contribute to a community's overall health and safety and can allow health care professionals to care for patients struggling with SUD without needing to report their disorder as a crime. This allows the conversation to shift from a legal context to a medical one that focuses on treating the problem rather than punishing those afflicted with it. The latter has been the strategy in the United States for decades, and has not been effective at eliminating the problem, as the numbers of lives lost to SUD have been increasing over time, not decreasing.
Decriminalization can increase the overall wellbeing of individuals via novel treatment options for SUD and other mental health related issues. Additionally, decriminalizing psychedelics enables governmental bodies to focus on other pressing public health and wellness matters, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To build a brighter, healthier, and more equitable future for all US citizens, we indisputably need to decriminalize psychedelic medicines.
About the Author
Chris McElvany is the CEO of Lucy Scientific Discovery.